The Cayman Islands government has hired Washington, D.C.-based company Solimar to draw up a five-year “National Tourism Plan” for the islands.

The company was chosen in a competitive tender process which began in April, the Department of Tourism announced in a press release.

Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said in the release, “The [National Tourism Plan] will provide a framework for tourism development and management that will support the tourism strategic goals and solidify a well-managed plan for the Cayman Islands tourism industry. Sustainable tourism development will be the foundation of the NTP, which will take into account global tourism trends and market opportunities.

“All these considerations now are critically important; the decisions made will form as a catalyst of purposeful growth and success for future generations.”

Department of Tourism officials said the new tourism plan would “provide recommendations as to the way forward for the advancement of the Cayman Islands’ tourism industry beyond the current tourism development plans.”

According to the request for proposals, among the elements the consultants will be concerned with is how to address the impact of an anticipated increase in cruise ship passengers on the overall sustainable tourism product.

“Ultimately the goal is to provide a tool to manage the tourism industry and propel our success through providing a distinctive high quality product and promoting it effectively.”

The request for proposals notes that George Town and Seven Mile Beach have changed dramatically over the past 30 years and “there are indications that the scale and nature of development is beginning to deter tourists.”

The five-year plan is due to begin next year and continue to 2021.

Director of Tourism Rosa Harris said she encourages all stakeholders, partners and interested parties to engage and participate in the development of this new plan.

“There will be a range of public consultation opportunities as we advance the drafting of the NTP,” she said. “As an industry, we must conduct a multi-sectorial approach to ensure the process is comprehensive and focused on maximizing value. Ultimately the goal is to provide a tool to manage the tourism industry and propel our success through providing a distinctive high quality product and promoting it effectively.”

Consultants from Solimar International are expected to visit the Cayman Islands throughout the duration of the consultancy, beginning this month. The company is described as a “specialist consulting and marketing firm” that examines how “sustainable tourism can stimulate economic growth while conserving natural resources and cultural heritage.”

The company has been involved in tourism consultancy projects in several countries, including Jamaica, Mexico, Sri Lanka and Nepal.

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  1. Sadly, if this is going to be treated with the same contempt as most of the other consultant’s reports commissioned in recent years Solimar would be well advised to print it on a narrow roll of soft paper with convenient perforations every four inches.

    The problem with tourism as I see it is DoT themselves. I cannot remember the last time anyone in that department gave any indication that they understood anything about the global tourism market. True, they come up with interesting ideas and some impressive jargon (you see some of that in the quotes above) but when it comes down to practical, money-making options they haven’t got a clue.

    Take this comment, “there are indications that the scale and nature of development is beginning to deter tourists.” Beginning to deter? The person who wrote that obviously isn’t familiar with either SMB or the state of the tourism industry in the 1990s. I can remember that era very well and trust me what you have now is a pale shadow of those days. In those days full dive boats were queuing to get on moorings in North Sound. Don Fosters and Bob Sotos took their boats out from George Town full of stayover tourists on dive packages, not cruise-shippers doing a quick two-tank excursion, and sensibly priced hotels like the Seaview were rocking. Whatever the numbers seem to indicate the over-development of not just SMB but the whole island has been matched by a clear decline in the kind of tourism that is needed here. If the people at DoT haven’t recognised that yet they need to get out of their offices a bit more.

    The other problem with DoT is attitude. I am not sure whether it’s a ‘head in sand’ mentality, ‘NIH’ (Not Invented Here) or simply ‘what’s in this for me?’ Whatever, it’s deterring the kind of investment that other regional destinations, particularly Cuba, have been benefiting from for at least the past decade. DoT seem to equate ‘all-inclusive’, which they’ve had more than one chance to take on board, and sensibly-priced holidays with ‘low-end’ so they block it. At the same time just about every other major destination in the region is signing up to deals with companies like FirstChoice and Thomson that bring plane-loads of tourists in and inject $millions into their economies. And are people who take these vacations getting a ‘low-end’ product? No, they are not. In fact I can say from personal experience that what they are getting is generally (there are a few exceptions) so good it makes the Cayman Islands tourism experience look rather tired and very over-priced.

    Let’s move away from the idea that Grand Cayman has some kind of unique attraction that nowhere else in the region can offer because it’s complete nonsense. The harsh reality is that tourism is a price-driven consumer market and people will not pay high-end prices to visit somewhere that resembles an over-developed construction site when they can get quality accommodation somewhere else for a fraction of the cost. Right now a week’s vacation in Costa Rica or Varadero in Cuba during November costs a tourist from the UK less than the return fares on BA to ORIA and for their money they get Dreamliner flights leaving from Gatwick, airport transfers at the destination, full-board and free alcoholic drinks for the duration of the stay – that’s the reality of the tourism industry and this is, whether they like or not, what DoT must get their collective heads around.

  2. David Williams…I really could not have said this better myself. Thank you. Let us get over the fact that we think we are a “special” destination, work together to make our tourism product better and stop paying companies to tell us what to do and how to do it. Look at and read marketing information, see where we are falling short (TOO MANY NON-CAYMANIAN STAFF!) High prices for poor or limited service, same old-same old! Every Caribbean island is our competitor and with Cuba returning to the market on a wider basis, we better get it together and quickly! We don’t have a lot of time to make this better and keep the people that are employed, employed. Educate and hone skills, sind people who can show you where Cayman is on a map, and then take it from there. Instead, wasting another 4 or 5 million dollars is really not going to help us. Put Caymanians back in the DOT and look back at our successful marketing campaigns and use them as a base for newer ones.

  3. I do have a problem with the very first paragraph of this report. which says: ” The Cayman Islands Government has hired Washington DC based Solimar, to draw up a five year “National Tourism Plan” for the Islands. “Has Hired” those are the words, not “words to the tune of We are considering to hire” Please we need to draw down on the brakes or we are going to crash and burn.
    This just does not seem right, Why are we soliciting consultants for this position from overseas when we have so many persons on Island, Natives or Caymanians with Status Companies who could have handled this position. Why do we have to continually be soliciting consultants across our borders when we have them right here. This is not right and I do hope the government thinks about this and reconsider.

  4. I think that David has hit the nail on the head here . What I think is the problem is that the Minister for Tourism is trying to change the Cayman Islands Tourism market around to make it a CRUISE SHIP DESTINATION, and is forgetting how Cayman Islands Tourism was founded and how it was so good before he got into it .

    I think that we could save the millions of dollars that this 5 years plan would cost us , by just going back to the old marketing way and old time Tourism and forget about depending on cruise ship only .